President Joe Biden’s administration has no intention of using criminal fines on illegal aliens who’ve been ordered to leave the country and refuse to do so. Not only that, the Department of Homeland Security is clearing the debts of those who’ve already been fined.
In an announcement Friday, the DHS announced Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had “rescinded two delegation orders related to the collection of civil financial penalties for noncitizens who fail to depart the U.S., stating they run counter to the agency’s best interest.”
“There is no indication that these penalties promoted compliance with noncitizens’ departure obligations,” Mayorkas said in the news release.
“We can enforce our immigration laws without resorting to ineffective and unnecessary punitive measures.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials will work with the Treasury Department to cancel any existing, outstanding fines, the news release stated.
“After reviewing detailed data regarding the issuance of such fines since 2018, it was clear to Secretary Mayorkas and Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson that the fines were not effective and had not meaningfully advanced the interests of the agency,” it stated.
ICE has had the ability to levy fines on illegal immigrants who defied removal orders for over 20 years, but it was only during the administration of then-President Donald Trump that it began enforcing them, according to the news release.
Trump signed an executive order just a few days after his inauguration promising that “as soon as practicable, and by no later than one year after the date of this order” immigration authorities would start collecting “all fines and penalties that the Secretary is authorized under the law to assess and collect from aliens unlawfully present in the United States.”
The order also said fines would be levied on “those who facilitate their presence in the United States.”
According to an NPR report from 2019, ICE had sent letters to “targeted” illegal aliens noting that the Immigration and Nationality Act allowed ICE to levy and collect “civil fines on aliens who have been ordered removed or granted voluntary departure and fail to depart the United States.” The fines would be no more than $500 a day, NPR reported.
As with any attempt to enforce immigration law during the Trump administration, this was met with paroxysms of righteous indignation.
The mainstream media’s cause célèbre in the matter was Edith Espinal Moreno, a Mexican woman who had defied a removal order after her request for asylum was rejected.
According to court documents from March of 2020, Moreno’s deportation order predated the Trump administration and her claims of ineffective counsel were denied by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017, based on, among other things, untimely filings on multiple occasions by the lawyer who claimed her previous lawyer had been ineffective.
That part didn’t generally get reported. What got publicized instead, by NPR, CNN and The Hill — as well as conservative news outlets like Breitbart and The Daily Caller — was the final line of a letter sent to Moreno in 2019 by an ICE officer: “It is the intention of ICE to order you pay a fine in the amount of $497,777.00.”
The Biden administration has different priorities, as evinced by its 100-day moratorium on deportations that started Jan. 21, the day after Biden took office.
The news release Friday said the move to clear the fines and stop giving them out “formalizes the Biden Administration’s change in direction.”
And what a change of direction it’s been.
As Fox News noted Sunday, ICE has only been focusing on three things since it received interim guidance in February:
First, the removal of national security threats. Second, individuals who’ve entered the country illegally since Nov. 1. Finally, illegal aliens who have committed “aggravated felonies.”
Approval to arrest other illegal immigrants could be obtained, but field officers would need to go through the chain of command — a chain in which the top links take the “Enforcement” part of ICE’s title with relative laxity.
As for the fines themselves, the Biden administration stopped issuing them on Inauguration Day.
This has had predictable results. In March, ICE’s arrests were down 65 percent over March of 2020, Fox News reported.
Please keep in mind that ICE isn’t in the habit of just going around and arresting any illegal alien a field officer might run across during the course of their day.
I know some might get that impression given the media coverage, but removal orders either indicate the denial of an asylum claim at the very mild end of the spectrum — as was the case with Espinal — or, at the less-mild end, convicted criminals.
At present, it’s merely aggravated felons who are being deported.
Fines were and remain a tool to effect the removal of illegal immigrants. The reason they’re being discontinued doesn’t have anything to do with them being “ineffective and unnecessary punitive measures.”
The administration and its supporters had already determined they were ineffective, unnecessary and punitive before they’d even given the matter thought, erasing the debts at the same time law-abiding Americans are financially struggling.
Rest assured, they might think differently the next time one of those felons of the “non-aggravated” variety, whose fines were rescinded and whose deportation order went unenforced under Biden, does something appalling.
They’ve successfully run out the clock. They no longer have fines and, for the moment, they’re not being actively pursued.
Watch how we’re ushered past all of those facts when the Biden administration’s intentional lack of enforcement inevitably goes awry.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.